I'm tired of being screamed at by the Russian dance teachers in my pre-professional trainee program. I know they do it because they want me to be my best, but if I'm that bad maybe I should quit. What should I do?
—K.C., New York, NY
Take back your power! While I'm sure your dance teachers have good intentions, screaming at students is old-school and neglects the potential effects of positive reinforcement. According to research on more than 1,000 dancers that I conducted with Dance Magazine and published in my book Advice for Dancers, this behavior encourages dancers to work injured, causes stage fright and thwarts career aspirations.
Taking back your power means knowing the best way to improve your dancing without giving negative teachers the ability to affect you personally (yes, it's easier said than done). You are more likely to improve when you feel safe during the learning process. You can create a better environment by setting your own goals in class (such as improving your placement), giving yourself constructive corrections and rewarding your hard work and effort. Mistakes are also a normal part of the learning process, and thinking about them as problems to be solved is a great way to protect your self-esteem. Meanwhile, you or your parent can speak to the school's director about the screaming. If you find that nothing changes and you're unable to block out their comments, you might look at other trainee programs.
Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at email@example.com.